Review of Andrew Hugill’s Pataphysics: A Useless Guide

When I first heard of pataphysics, the idea confused me. When I read this Andrew Hugill’s new book, I was no less confused. Though, I think that is the premise behind pataphysics. The movement tries to exclude itself from the idea of a movement.

How does one describe Pataphysics? One could call it a philosophy, though many (if not most) philosophers would find that idea insulting. Hugill finds it at the roots of many significant intellectual and artistic movements of the twentieth century. He sees pataphysics at the roots of dadaism, surrealism, futurism, absurdism and other movements. Yet still, there is no clear answer as to what it is.

I would venture to say that it’s an attitude. A certain distance one acquires to one’s subject matter. This Hugill does brilliantly. The book circles the topic, and is itself pataphysical. Any approach to describing the indescribable must be.

Yet, the writing is easy. The reader is never lost, beyond what is necessary to convey the nuances of the discipline. At the same time, the book feels like it needs to be read and re-read, as the material is profound and complex. And what an enjoyable re-read that would be.

I’d like to thank the MIT press for sending me a copy of this book. Here is a link to it’s Amazon page if you are inclined to buy it. ‘Pataphysics: A Useless Guide